IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Will Cities Be Left Out of Federal Broadband Funding?

An interim rule from the U.S. Treasury Department may prevent cities from using federal coronavirus relief funds on broadband expansion efforts. A final rule could be determined in the fall.

George Washington dollar
Local urban areas are worried an interim rule from the U.S. Treasury Department may prevent them from using coronavirus relief funds on broadband infrastructure, reports The Associated Press.

The interim rule was issued in May. The concern is over language that suggests priority will be given to areas that don’t have access to Internet speeds that meet the Federal Communications Commission standard of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps. Such areas would likely be rural.

“They’re basically prioritizing those rural areas over the underserved urban areas where there is more population,” Detta Kissel, a former Treasury Department attorney, told The Associated Press.

One of the more overlooked aspects to the U.S. digital divide is that many urban places have inadequate access to broadband. For example, Adam Perzynski, a professor involved in telehealth initiatives in Ohio, told Government Technology last summer that “we have tens of thousands of residents who don’t have Internet access in Cleveland.”

Speaking to The Associated Press, Jim Strickland, mayor of Memphis, Tenn., addressed the misconception about urban versus rural broadband.

“The inner city of Memphis is in as dire a need of broadband connection as rural Tennessee,” Strickland said.

Cities ranging from San Antonio, Texas, to Milwaukee, Wis., have written to the Treasury Department requesting the final rule to be less restrictive on where federal relief money can be spent on broadband. Meanwhile, industry organizations such as USTelecom would like the rule to remain as is.

According to The Associated Press, the Treasury Department hasn’t indicated when it will issue the definitive version of the rule. An official said the federal agency will review comments about the interim rule “into the fall.”